Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rainforest visiting

Little excursion today to the Living Rainforest. It's a great favourite of ours - not big, not flashy, but a lot of fun creeping round the glasshouses and spotting amazing plants, butterflies, birds and the odd monkey, spider and snake.

It was also a special clay animal workshop day.

Here's a yellow toed tortoise (who has to dry before his toes can be painted)

A scorpion

And a dwarf crocodile.

Oh yes, I think I had as much if not more fun than the kids.

Tomorrow we have to do the supermarket and haircuts. I'm not predicting quite so much fun.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Extreme recycling

The boys and my Mum picked a ton of blackberries while we were visiting, so we came home with a big boxful. I rooted through the recipe books and found a Nigella Lawson Blackberry Galette recipe which sounded tempting.

I was just about to get stuck in when I realized I had no polenta for the pastry. Eek - Sunday evening, not a shop open, so I decided to make a batch of coulis instead. And then a wild impulse overtook me. Jam, must make jam. Or rather jelly, because those blackberries were a bit pippy.

Never mind that I'd never made jam before and I had no preserving sugar. Pectin, schmectin I said to myself - read 3 recipes and came up with my own. A pint of strained juice from the fruit, juice of half a lemon and a pound of sugar. Bubble, bubble, 106 degrees and Bob's your uncle.

It worked! And it set. And it tastes good. And I feel smugly domestic-goddess-like every time I glance at the jar.

Did I mention that my Mum's favourite blackberrying patch is in the local cemetery? She maintains the fruit from there is free of dog pee and traffic pollution. Who am I to argue.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Autumn approaching

Not sure I feel quite ready yet for the arrival of Autumn/Winter catalogues through my door, but they're coming. Here are a few of my favourite bits from the Laura Ashley Home Autumn/Winter 2007.

Like these spotty chairs?

Perhaps with a doggy pillow. I'm always curious about handmade-looking mass produced items. They get me thinking chicken or egg type thoughts.

And then these amazing blinds - oh for the windows to carry them off.

In fact, I'm pretty keen on the whole charcoal/linen palette.

Perhaps we should just gloss over the summer (or lack of) and start looking forward to Autumn instead.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Giving in (dis)gracefully

Okay, I've officially had enough of flooding. Now we are so much better off than most in that there is no water whatsoever in our house and very little danger of there being any, but the side effects were cheesing me off. The bridges across the Thames are closed to traffic, I'm boiling drinking water, the biggest local supermarket is flooded and everywhere else is full of panic-buyers and empty of food.

So what do you do when the going gets inconvenient? Well, call me a wimp, but the boys and I are at my folks for the rest of the week. In a blissfully un-flooded part of the country.

But we did manage a little draw before we left.

I even stopped by the post office and sent it to you Alice, but I gather the posties are on strike this week (because what's a little extra chaos thrown into the mix) so goodness knows when it'll arrive.

Really thinking of all the poor folks who have truly been hit by the floods. Makes me rather ashamed of my 'little princess hissy fit and flounce off to mama' behaviour.

Summer, for one day only

A lovely parcel of buttons from Paper and String. And d'you see what it's sitting in. A patch of sunshine. Rare, and very welcome.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Holiday reading

While we were away, I felt the need to pick up a little light holiday reading, and this caught my eye.

It was a very Asian-inspired issue and yielded goodies like this skirt with 3D organza blossom

And this sashiko inspired notebook cover. I've loved sashiko ever since I first came across it in Japan. Soo made a cute patch not so long ago, and now this. I'm feeling an urge coming on.

And the magazine came with a freebie magazine (Idees Couture & Broderie - thirty heart themed projects). Hearts aren't really a huge passion of mine, so if anyone would like it, it's up for grabs. Leave me a comment and if it's more than one person, I'll have my trusty helpers pick a name. Feels like a long time since I went to the post office and I'm suffering withdrawal symptoms.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Getting into the post-trip holiday groove today. Starting with a pancake breakfast. Tasha's family recipe has become pretty sacred in our house, but is usually reserved for the weekends when we can be a bit more leisurely about it.

More decadent breakfasts was just one of the ways I wanted to make our holiday time a little different this year. Earlier this summer, I was inspired by Erin's talk of a quiet time each day and resolved to put one in place at our house. So after lunch, I explained the concept. An hour of time, playing quietly, no screen time (computer or TV), no activity requiring parental assistance or supervision, no fighting or yelling. Then calmly I set the timer and walked upstairs.

Well knock me down with a feather - it actually worked! The boys played out some elaborate rescue services scenario together and then Mark went to his room and read for a bit. I was astounded. Tomorrow I'm actually setting the timer for a whole hour (wimped out with 45 mins today, but hey, it's good for starters). I may yet manage to retain my sanity until September. Or will it be a case of pride coming before a fall....

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hello again!

For the first time, I can understand the appeal of downing tools and flitting off to rural France to escape the rat-race. We had the best holiday imaginable in Bordeaux.

Well, apart from the journey there, when Johnny barfed on the way through airport security. Like any good mother I stuck out my cupped hands and then had to dump the vom and copious wet wipes thrust at me from well prepared women into one of the trays you are meant to put the contents of your pockets in to go through the x-ray machine. Great start - things could only get better...

The French attitude to life suits a slow paced, restorative holiday perfectly. We did very little of any consequence and a lot of eating, drinking, splashing in the pool, building sandcastles on the beach and playing in the woods. I was too lazy to even take many photos. The children thrived on 100% adult attention, with no distractions of work, the computer or chores to divert us from playing.

It's not real life, but it was sooooo good while it lasted. My O-level French held up pretty well on the whole. I even managed a note to the tooth mouse. Did you know they have a mouse and not a fairy in France? Mark is now totally front toothless, but he couldn't whistle anyway, so is not too bothered by their absence.

Arriving back to the UK was a shock - there's been a lot of rain and some bad flooding. One of the roads out of our village is submerged, but thankfully the house is fine. Which is more than I can say for the vegetable patch.

Looking forward to catching up with what you've all been up to (as soon as I've overcome the laundry mountain...)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Later, alligator

Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say we're packed, but we are off tomorrow, ready or not.
Keep an eye on the place for me won't you. Make sure the goldfish are alright and the plants aren't getting too thirsty. And the wheelie bin needs to go out on Thursday.

Bordeaux here we come... See you in a week or so.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Believe to be beautiful or know to be useful

One thing I've learned from my pottery class is patience - it really is a slow business. I have been going since January and have so far managed to bring home only one piece. But all that changed last night because a whole load of my stuff came out of the kiln.

These little chaps were inspired by some Matthew Mead paper doves which I saw over at The Felt Mouse last Christmas. Told you pottery took time - six months from idea to completion must be some kind of slow crafting record.

And it is a lot harder than it looks too. I'm not happy with any of the glazes on my stuff - too milky looking, too uneven, pock marks from bubbles, not the colour I was expecting. But I'm trying to love the imperfections. They're what makes things unique.

My six year old has been appreciating my unique qualities too.

Mark: " I love you Mummy"
Me: "Oh, why's that?"
Mark: "You know how to cook my favourite food. You're very useful"

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Year of Colour - Black

The end of Amy's first Year of Color is rolling round. We began with white, so it seems fitting to end with black.

I wish I had managed to join in every week, because I enjoyed the weeks I did make it hugely. And YOC 2 is coming.

And Megan from Megan's blog - Charlie and Lola are coming your way this month.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Prepare for take off

I managed to get one kiddy travel bag sewn up ready to go for this weekend (using the Lotta Jansdotter backpack pattern from Simple Sewing).

Mark is already plotting how many books he can stuff into it for the trip and is very pleased that I've embroidered the directions to the hotel onto the map.

I've been arming him with some handy French phrases, but he seemed a bit worried and eventually asked "Mummy, when it's just the four of us, would it be okay if we spoke some English?".

No child - it's French or silence - mwahahahaha.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Eat your greens

I am a weak-willed woman with no self control. I need more cookie cutters like a hole in my head, but can I stop myself? No.

Mind you, it doesn't help when they are selling them in my bookshop!

It's part of a promotion for the Children's Food Festival, which is happening in Oxfordshire next weekend.

Food tasting, celebrity chefs (Raymond Blanc, Sophie Grigson, Annabel Karmel..), live water buffalo (??!). It's going to be a great event, and would you believe, we're going to miss it?

But jetting off to Bordeaux ought to be some compensation. Oh yes, it's holiday time.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Charlie and Lola 3 giveaway

Our favourite chums are visiting Space and playing musical instruments this month. To get your pink milk loving mitts on a giveaway copy of this kids craft magazine, leave me a comment and tell me what you're doing to preserve your sanity while the munchkins are on holiday.

This pre-supposes you have munchkins, because if you don't, shame on you for trying to get your paws on a kids comic!

And blogger is not e-mailing me your comments - so if I haven't replied to yours, don't think I'm ignoring you. Is anyone else having the same problem?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sampler bag

There's something hugely enjoyable about dabbling in a new crafty area. The joy of experimentation. But I do like to be able to do something with the results. So my embroidery sampler (and I use the term extremely loosely) became this tote bag.

The strap was pure experimentation, as my sewing machine wouldn't cope with the multiple layers of felt to do a standard handle. So this is a single felt layer with ribbon sewn down the centre to make it look a little more finished. And I made the strap long enough to wear across your body, because I need more hands than I've got and filling one with a bag is never going to work for me.

It's not summery, so I may pop it away until the Autumn and sell it at the craft fair (yup, I think I'm doing another...) And if it doesn't sell, I'll have a nice Autumn bag to console myself with.

Oh, and a Happy 4th of July to you who celebrate it.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Weekend in progress

I've had a little idea brewing ever since I saw the Autumn 2007 Boden preview catalogue. It's not finished yet, but it's getting there.

I'm not sure if it really fits the 'needlework sampler' project for the first assignment over at School of Craft. Does it Moki? It's got embroidery on it hasn't it? Sort of...

Is it hideous to get your inspiration from Boden? It's just that I am SO sucked in by their lifestyle proposition. Shiny happy children, healthy outdoorsy pursuits, fun and domesticity. What's not to like. Oh, apart from the hefty price tag. That's what gives me a serious case of the I-could-do-thats. Appliqued t-shirts? Tick. Stencilled t-shirts? Tick.

This satchel... not so easy. So I ordered it. Yes, I know it's make-your-own-bag month over at Sew Mama Sew, but I couldn't resist. Don't boot me out of the crafty club. Pretty please.